Damn. This is good! You all know how much I love the Baked Almond Feta, going so far as to claim it's changed my life - and this confirms that. Going for a smoked flavour came about as I was able to get a couple bottles of liquid smoke here. For those that don't know it's nigh impossible to get in Ireland/UK but I found some online at American Food, a Dublin based American grocer. They sell two bottles, one hickory the other mesquite. I went with hickory here as it seemed better suited to cheese. Now I had similar stuff growing up in Canada and I remember it being pretty much just liquid smoke in the ingredients. This stuff isn't, it's soy sauce and other stuff with liquid smoke.
Still, I'm not complaining, it's wonderfully smokey and I instantly started to think about smoked cheeses as I used to love them. Naturally I turned to the Baked Almond Feta as it is vegan cheese perfection and set about changing the recipe. For this I omitted the lemon juice, added some liquid smoke and reduced the salt as the liquid smoke already had some in the form of salt and soy sauce. I also reduced the garlic and swapped the olive oil for vegetable oil as I didn't want a strong flavour from the oil here but rather wanted the smokey flavour to shine through.
Texture wise, it initially seemed the same as the original when it got wrapped up in cheesecloth. Then some of the liquid did drain away just like the original but when it came time to bake it this cheese was a lot softer. With the original you end up with a firm disc of cheese to bake. This one needed scraping into the dish to bake as it was still quite soft. I baked it for basically the same amount of time 200C for 30 - 40 minutes, until golden and cracked on top. The end product was really nice, bit of a crust but soft and creamy inside and wonderfully smokey (but no smoke overkill here!) Also the different texture with this one meant you can slice it a bit easier than the original, which was more of a crumble or spreading type cheese.
Altogether a success, will definitely make this variation again. Now, what to do with it - smoked cheeses for me are calling out for a sandwich, especially anything with avocado - a match made in heaven! So I present you with the open faced sandwich of my dreams:
Warm Crispy Ciabatta, spread with vegan margarine until all melty then topped with slices of tomato, avocado and the hickory smoked almond cheese (aka - pure sandwich heaven)
Now, before you go about making the cheese please note this - the brand or type of liquid smoke really matters. Like I mentioned above mine is more of a smoked soy sauce than straight up liquid smoke and 1 Tablespoon in the recipe is perfect. If you use one that is much more concentrated you'll end up with something way too smokey! You've been warned ;-)
Hickory Smoked Baked Almond Feta:
145g ground almonds (1 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp hickory liquid smoke
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
Simply add everything to a blender and blend until thick and really creamy - a few minutes is fine. Line a bowl with three layers of cheesecloth and scrape the mixture into it. Tie the cheesecloth up into a ball and place in a colander over a bowl and refrigerate overnight. The next day, preheat the oven to 200C and remove the cheese from the cloth and place in an oven proof dish. Like I mentioned before this cheese stays a bit soft at this stage and you may have to scrape some in. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until golden, firm to the touch and cracking a bit on top. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Then it's ready to slice into sandwiches, spread onto crackers, crumble into pasta - endless possibilities!
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